Choosing an Insurance Company for Your Pet
As veterinary medicine evolves, owners are able to take advantage of increasingly intricate and advanced options for their pets’ medical care. As one would expect, as treatment options for pets increase in complexity and sophistication, the cost for optimal care also increases. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that the price of care can be a limiting factor in deciding whether or not to treat a pet.
In the last decade, Pet Insurance has become an increasingly viable and popular option for pet owners. It can go a long way to help owners recover the cost of their pet’s medical bills, especially those expenses that cannot be budgeted for, such as unexpected illness and injuries. Insurance can often be the difference between being able to provide “gold standard” care vs a modified treatment plan for their pet.
While pet insurance is highly recommended for all pet owners, navigating all the different companies and policies can be difficult at best. The policy that may be ideal for one owner may not be the best option for another. To help owners make the best decision for themselves and their pet, we have compiled the following information:
Considerations/Uses of Pet Insurance
Pet Insurance’s most important and most common function is to help with expenses from unexpected illness and injuries. These may include infections, skin conditions, fractures, ingestion of foreign bodies, acute disease, and unexpected illnesses.
Note: Some companies offer “accident only” plans. As the name suggests, these plans cover just accidents, and will not cover expenses related to unexpected illnesses.
Wellness Care is an option with some pet insurances. This includes coverage for annual exams, vaccinations, and dental cleanings. While wellness coverage may seem like a good option, the additional expense that wellness riders add to an insurance premium may add up to more than if you paid for these procedures out of pocket, so it is worth evaluating both options.
In general, pet insurance is a reimbursement program, meaning that the owner pays the veterinarian and then submits a “claim” to the insurance company, usually via an app on the phone or through a convenient website. The owner/client is then reimbursed directly from the insurance company. Reimbursement can take anywhere from 1-4 weeks, depending on the company and complexity of the case.
Because the client submits the claim and money is reimbursed directly, clients do not need to ask the veterinarian if they “take” insurance. There are no networks to worry about, nor does the pet need a primary provider.
Choosing a Pet Insurance Plan for Your Pet
The “perfect” insurance plan can vary from owner to owner based on their pet’s age, breed, owner’s location, and their individual budget. Individual insurance companies may also have different coverage options that vary with deductibles, payout percentages, maximum payouts, etc.
Things to consider when evaluating different insurance options:
Premium: The amount of money paid to the insurer for coverage (“the price”). Usually paid in monthly installments, but some companies offer yearly options as well.
It is recommended that you do not buy pet insurance based solely on the lowest premium cost. Consider what you are getting for your money and how it will benefit you and your pet.
Deductible: The amount that the insured individual pays before the insurance plan starts to pay. For example, a plan with a $250 deductible means you must pay $250 before the insurance starts to kick in. Deductibles are usually per year, although some plans have per incident/per condition deductibles.
Payout Percentage: The percent of the covered services that the insurance will pay. The payout percentage starts after the deductible has been paid. 70%, 80%, and 90% are standard payout percentages.
Co-Pay: A fixed amount that the insured individual pays for certain covered health care services.
Maximum Payout: The maximum amount that the insurance will pay. Different insurance companies may have maximum payouts per medical incident, per covered year, or per lifetime of pet.
Waiting Periods: The amount of time an owner must wait after joining an insurance plan before the insurance will accept claims.
Pre-Existing Conditions: Conditions that the pet had been diagnosed with prior to starting the insurance policy. Most insurance companies will not cover pre-existing conditions.
Congenital Conditions: Conditions that have been passed down to the pet from their parents; these conditions are often tied to the pet’s breed. Examples include hip dysplasia in German Shepherds or eye conditions in Collies. Many insurance policies do not cover Congenital conditions, or may not cover certain congenital conditions diagnosed within the first year.
Additionally, the following should be taken into consideration when choosing a pet insurance company:
Coverage for Chronic/Long Term Illness: Will the insurance company cover chronic illness for the full length of its treatment, or will they only pay the year it is diagnosed? Will chronic medication, prescription diets, and repeat labwork be covered?
What is the overall reputation of the insurance company. You can research this through the Better Business Bureau and your state’s Department of Insurance.
Who is the insurance company’s underwriter: The underwriter is the company financially responsible for paying the insurance claims.
Time to Payment: On average, how long does it take for the company pay the claim, once all documents are submitted?
Exclusions: Does the plan have any exclusions based on your pet’s past medical history and breed?
Terms and Conditions: When signing up for an insurance policy, always read the terms and conditions of your pet’s particular plan.
Finally, insurance companies may offer riders to their plans. A rider is additional coverage for specific conditions or situations. These are optional and are associated with extra cost, but can be very helpful in specific circumstances. Common additional riders include cancer, rehabilitation, alternative medicine, and wellness care.
The following is a list of Pet Insurance Companies that many of our clients use. As a hospital, we do not endorse or recommend any specific plan and encourage owners to take the time to research the best insurance option for themselves and their pets.
- Healthy Paws
- Pets Best
- ASPCA Pet Health Insurance
If you have any questions about pet insurance or what might be the best option for your pet, give us a call! We are happy to help.